Protecting nature in Asia’s “water tower”-Xinhua

* Beginning in 2005, China launched ecological projects to protect and restore the environment in Sanjiangyuan, known as Asia’s “water tower”, with a cumulative investment of more than 22 billion yuan (about $3.19 billion).

* Over the past decade, water conservation in the Sanjiangyuan area has increased by more than 6% on average every year, while grassland cover has increased by more than 11% and grass production by 30%.

* Thanks to the improvement of ecosystems, populations of wild animals and plants have steadily increased in the Sanjiangyuan area.

XINING, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) — Over the past decade, Tibetan ranger Gechok has generally started his day with the same routine, waking up early in the morning and riding his horse to the source area of ​​the Yellow River.

He spends seven hours a day on patrol, covering tens of kilometres, taking notes on the presence and activities of wildlife, vegetation growth and changes in the snow line. The details are noted in a notebook and then collated, before being sent in the form of reports to environmental protection professionals.

“Before, animals and plants were just decorations for me. But when I became a ranger, I learned recording methods from professionals and realized that they are scientific research materials, which can be used to better protect the ecological environment,” he said. said.

In this aerial photo, rangers patrol in Sanjiangyuan National Park in Madoi County of Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Qinghai Province, Oct. 20, 2021. (Xinhua/Zhang Long )

Gechok is among more than 20,000 herders who have secured new jobs as rangers in Sanjiangyuan National Park in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, which sits at an average altitude of over 4700 meters.

The Sanjiangyuan area is known as the “water tower” of Asia as it contains the sources of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers.

Previously, due to climate change and various human activities, Sanjiangyuan suffered severe ecological degradation, with the disappearance of a large number of lakes and a sharp decline in wildlife.

In recent years, however, the situation has largely improved thanks to the concerted and tireless efforts of governments at various levels, institutes and grassroots workers.

CONTINUOUS AND CONCERTED EFFORTS

Madoi County, Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai, where the source region of the Yellow River is located, has seen changes in its ecological environment over the years.

Photo taken on Oct. 20, 2021 shows a view of Gyaring Lake in Madoi County of Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Qinghai Province. (Xinhua/Zhang Long)

From the 1960s to the 1980s, Madoi’s main industry was animal husbandry. At that time, each household in the county owned hundreds of cattle and sheep, and the development of animal husbandry boosted the local economy.

Thus, in the early 1980s, Madoi became one of the richest counties in China in terms of animal husbandry.

However, from the late 1980s to the beginning of this century, due to various factors including global climate change, Madoi wetlands and lakes declined, grassland vegetation degraded, conservation capacity water has dropped sharply, biodiversity has been impacted and economic and social development has been hampered.

The upper reaches of the Yellow River at Madoi was partially drained between 2003 and 2004, exposing riverbeds covered in yellow sand.

To restore the ecological environment, the county government has taken a series of measures, including launching ecological migration programs, imposing a grazing ban in certain areas, and encouraging local herders to participate in ecological protection. The measures proved to be effective, the trend of deterioration of the local ecology was reversed.

Madoi is a fine example of China’s efforts to improve the ecological environment and biodiversity in the Sanjiangyuan region.

Sun Lijun, deputy director of the administration of Sanjiangyuan National Park, said that from 2005, China started ecological projects that lasted about 16 years to protect and restore the environment in Sanjiangyuan, with investment accumulated more than 22 billion yuan (about 3.19 billion US dollars).

In 2016, China began piloting Sanjiangyuan National Park. Each household living inside the 190,700 km2 park was offered a job opportunity as a ranger with an annual income of more than 21,000 yuan.

A snow leopard is pictured in Zadoi County of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Qinghai Province, Aug. 6, 2022. (Photo by Yao Muyang/Xinhua)

In addition to these efforts, many counties and townships in Sanjiangyuan have begun to explore their own environmentally sustainable development paths based on their respective characteristics.

Namse Township in Qinghai’s Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, crossed by the Lancang River, is known as the “hometown of snow leopards” due to frequent sightings of big cats.

As of 2019, the township piloted a franchise business model for tourism, training some ranchers to serve as eco-guides to greet tourists. Currently, Namse Nyanthok Village has more than 10 such guides, with each household earning more than 10,000 yuan per year.

Last October, Sanjiangyuan National Park was officially designated.

POSITIVE SIGNS

Years of tireless conservation efforts have yielded positive results.

Aerial photo taken on May 25, 2021 shows a view of Lake Ngoring at the source of the Yellow River section of Sanjiangyuan National Park in northwest China’s Qinghai Province. (Xinhua/Li Zhanyi)

“The Upper Yellow River has been flowing for nearly 16 years,” said Gan Xuebin, full-time deputy director of the Upper Yellow River Park area management office.

Gan added that the number of lakes in Madoi, dubbed “the county of a thousand lakes”, increased from 4,077 recorded in the county’s annals to 5,849 in 2018, while 104 square kilometers of wetlands were added in 2018. .

According to a press briefing in Qinghai on Wednesday, over the past decade, water conservation in the Sanjiangyuan area has increased by more than 6 percent on average every year, while grassland coverage has increased by more than 6 percent. by 11% and grass production by 30%.

In addition, as part of efforts to improve wildlife habitats and conserve ecosystems, populations of wild animals and plants have continued to increase in the Sanjiangyuan area, the news outlet added.

Karma Yingphel, from a protection station under the administration of Sanjiangyuan National Park, has been patrolling and protecting rare and endangered species, including Tibetan antelopes, and their habitats in Hoh Xil since 2007, along with her colleagues.

Tibetan antelopes are pictured near Zonag Lake in Hoh Xil, northwest China’s Qinghai Province, July 7, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhang Long)

Their hard work paid off. The population of Tibetan antelope in Hoh Xil, a top national protected species in China, has grown from less than 20,000 in the 1990s to more than 70,000 in 2021.

Additionally, the Shanshui Conservation Center, an organization aimed at nature conservation, has installed nearly 800 infrared cameras in the Sanjiangyuan area over the past decade, taking about 100,000 photos of the snow leopards, a species under the highest national-level protection in China, according to the center’s Zhao Xiang.

“So far, we have identified at least 400 individual snow leopards in the area,” Zhao said, adding that the snow leopard distribution density in Sanjiangyuan is higher than the global average, indicating that this area is the largest distribution of snow leopards. and habitat in China and the rest of the world.

“When I was a child, I wanted to become a shepherd when I grew up, like the older generations. Now I patrol wetlands and grasslands, record real-time images and observe animal tracks. ‘wild animals,’ Gechok said.

“Being a ranger taught me to scientifically understand nature and to know that the ecological environment is important not only for people, but also for plants and animals,” he added.

(Reporting by Lu Yifan, Li Linhai and Lyu Xueli; video reporter: Han Fangfang; video editors: Zheng Xin, Zhao Yuchao and Zhu Jianhui)